Apparent drug murder in Arizona sparks fears of cross-border violence
Up until now, the violence associated with Mexico's four-years-long drug war has stayed firmly on the Mexico side of the border, with little exception. Over the weekend, five bodies were found in a burned-out car south of Phoenix. Arizona officials worry this may be a turning point.
There are new stories almost daily now about violence among drug cartels in Mexico, but over the weekend some of that violence spilled over the border into the United States.
Police in rural Arizona found a charred SUV with five bodies inside along a stretch of desert road commonly used as a smuggling route. Authorities haven't charged anyone for the crime, but all signs are pointing to the cartels.
Ioan Grillo, a journalist in Mexico City covering drugs and crime for Reuters, said very little is known about the deceased who were found in the vehicle as well.
"They suspect it could be a drug-related murder. But so far they haven't identified the victims. They say they're so badly burned, they can't even say who they are, or even what race they are," Grillo said. "Very little evidence has been found so far.
Grillo, also the author of "El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency," said this corridor is used extensively by the Sinaloa Cartel to bring drugs into the United States. It's also used widely for human smuggling, he said.
American officials are concerned this may be the first sign that the violence in Mexico that has killed some 50,000 people in the last four years is spreading to the United States.
"The American side of the border has been relatively safe," Grillo said. "At the same time, the American side of the border has been relatively safe. If you look at the crime rates in many of the cities on the U.S. side, like El Paso, right across the border from Ciudad Juarez, El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States."
Grillo attributed that to respect for the American border by the various drug cartels. They fear that if they rock the boat too much, they could endanger their source of profits. They make about $30 billion every year selling drugs in the United States, he said.
A change in that position would be very disconcerting, but Grillo also suggested that even if it was done by a drug cartel, it could have been done by a rogue element of a particular cartel.
"It might not be violence sanctioned by the leadership, because these drug cartels are quite cumbersome organizations with many people working for them," he said. "They don't always respond to the rules."
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